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Columbia Business Monthly

The Business Narrative: New Jobs

Nov 16, 2023 11:04AM ● By Donna Walker

ZF Group Expands Manufacturing Facility in Laurens County With $500 million investment To Create 400 Jobs

ZF Group, an original equipment supplier for passenger cars, commercial vehicles and industrial technology, said it is expanding ZF Transmissions Gray Court, its manufacturing facility in Laurens County.


The $500 million investment will create 400 jobs, according to Gov. Henry McMaster.


Since opening in 2013, the facility has produced eight- and nine-speed transmissions for passenger vehicles. 


As mobility transforms and shifts toward electrification, ZF Transmissions Gray Court continues to evolve and invest in advanced equipment and technologies that will meet the changing needs of the industries it serves, according to state officials.


By investing in the existing facility, located at 2846 N. Old Laurens Road in Gray Court, ZF Transmissions Gray Court will be able to build next generation propulsion systems for passenger cars and commercial vehicles, the officials said. 


Production operations for new products at the plant will start later this year.


“This is ZF’s first step to ensure ZF Gray Court remains a critical part of our major e-mobility transformation in North America and globally. Having the capability to produce the propulsion systems of today, and e-mobility products of tomorrow, under one U.S. roof and in South Carolina, is critical to serving our customers in the U.S. and globally,” said Tobias Brugger, vice president and plant manager, ZF Transmissions Gray Court, ZF Group.


“ZF Transmissions has been an integral part of Laurens County for the last 10 years. This $500 million investment and additional 400 jobs will greatly benefit the Laurens' economy, and we look forward to the rippling effects it will have across our state,” McMaster said.


The state’s Coordinating Council for Economic Development approved job development credits related to the project. 


The council also awarded a $15 million Closing Fund grant to Laurens County to assist with the costs of building improvements.


Those interested in joining the ZF Transmissions Gray Court team should go to the company’s careers page.

Duke Energy, Piedmont Natural Gas Partner with Regional Better Business Bureaus to Protect Customers from Scams

Threatening phone calls, fake webpages and bogus QR codes are among the growing list of tactics used by scammers, and while the methods may differ, the motive is always the same, which is to deprive customers of their money or personal information.


Officias said these expanding and increasingly sophisticated scam methods are why Duke Energy and Piedmont Natural Gas are partnering with the Better Business Bureaus of Upstate South Carolina, Eastern North Carolina, the Southern Piedmont and Western North Carolina to highlight Utility Scam Awareness Day on Wednesday, Nov. 15.


Recognized annually, Utility Scam Awareness Day was created by Utilities United Against Scams (UUAS), a consortium of more than 150 electric, water and natural gas companies and their respective trade associations.


In recent years, utilities have seen increased reports of their customers being contacted by scammers who pose as utility workers in an attempt to access their financial information or to obtain immediate payment by threatening service interruptions.


These are known as utility impostor scams. The theme of this year's campaign is "Screen the Search," which reflects the rise in utility impostor scams through digital methods, including search engine-related scams.


So far in 2023, more than 77,000 scam attempts have been reported to Duke Energy. That's a decrease from 2022, which had more than 150,000 reported attempts at this same time last year.


The Better Business Bureau also reported an uptick in these types of scams in the winter and summer months, when people are most likely to need heat or air conditioning.


Its 2022 Scam Tracker Risk Report found that of those who were victims of a utility scam, the average loss was $327.


In response to scammers targeting customers and calls received from concerned customers, Duke Energy launched the Scam Reporting Tool in March 2023.


The tool allows customers to share their experience regarding attempted scams, with the information provided being used to help protect other Duke Energy customers.


Duke Energy and Piedmont will always offer a variety of ways to pay a bill, including online payments, phone payments, automatic bank drafts, mail or in person.


Duke Energy and Piedmont will never:


* Specify how customers should make a bill payment.

* Threaten immediate service interruption. Customers with past-due accounts receive multiple advance notices, typically by mail and in their regular monthly bill.

* Ask for personal information or credit or debit card numbers over the phone, by email or in person – for either a payment or a refund.


Officials say if you need to make a payment online or via phone, refer to your most recent energy bill for the company website and contact information.


Duke Energy customers are encouraged to download the Duke Energy application in the Apple or Google Play store for added security and convenience.


Know what to look for:

Threat to disconnect – Scammers often threaten immediate service disconnections. They ask for personal information or demand payment to prevent service interruptions.


Request for immediate payment – Scammers may instruct customers to make payments via prepaid cards, digital payment apps, cryptocurrencies or direct transactions with banking institutions. Duke Energy and Piedmont don't accept payments through the Cash App, Venmo or Zelle apps.


(Customers can make payments directly via Duke Energy's website,, or mobile app. Piedmont customers can make payments directly via the Piedmont website,


Promise of a refund or discount – Scammers prey on households with tight budgets. They will inform customers of impending refunds due to overpaid utility bills; however, they need banking information to process the refund. They also may claim that immediate bill payment will result in a discount or that a charitable donation can be made in exchange for a lesser bill payment.


Personal information – Scammers promise to mail refund checks for overpayments on a customer's account if they can confirm their personal data, including birthdays and, in some cases, Social Security numbers.


Digital scam tactics – Sponsored ads on search engines that lead to identical – but fake – utility bill payment pages are on the rise. Scammers are also using QR codes that falsely claim to link to a utility payment page and texts pretending to be from a utility representative with a link to an impostor payment page.


Officials say if customers suspect someone is trying to scam them, they should hang up, shut the door or delete the email or text.


They also should contact the utility immediately at the number on the most recent monthly bill or on the utility's official website, not the phone number the scammer provides. If customers ever feel in physical danger, they should call 911.


More information is available at or

Social Venture Partners Charleston Now Empower Charleston

Social Venture Partners Charleston is rebranding to Empower Charleston, effective Nov. 1, 2023.


Established in 2010, Empower Charleston is the region’s foremost social collective of philanthropists who pool their resources to make an impact in the community.


Empower Charleston has empowered 32 nonprofits to grow their unique impact through $1.4M in funding and hundreds of hours of pro bono consulting. 


“Empower Charleston remains focused on the Lowcountry and building towards a bright future of impact across our region,” says Jessica Williford, Empower Charleston chair.


Williford added, “We are steadfast in our mission to cultivate philanthropists who collectively invest resources to help local nonprofits thrive. The new name emphasizes our renewed focus on helping effective nonprofits address Charleston's most difficult challenges.”


At the core, Empower Charleston believes that by connecting the nonprofit, philanthropic and venture capital communities directly with social good organizations, investments in knowledge-share, time, and money can drive the most impactful changes across the community.


Empower Charleston is currently investing resources with Charleston Hope, Increasing H.O.P.E. Financial Training Center, and We Are Family, chosen as the 2023-2024 investment portfolio, along with many alumni investees.


Looking forward, Empower Charleston will begin accepting applications for the 2025-2026 investment cycle in February.


Interested nonprofits can learn more about the upcoming grant cycle at


Empower Charleston operates under the auspices of the Coastal Community Foundation, the largest grant-making entity in South Carolina.

Canal Insurance Company Appoints Nancy Lyons Callahan to Board of Directors

Greenville, S.C.-based Canal Insurance Company said Nancy Lyons Callahan will join the company's board of directors, effective Jan. 1, 2024.


Callahan is a global strategy and technology executive with more than 25 years of experience in the insurance, financial services and technology sectors.


She currently serves as global vice president, Customer Success, for the multinational corporation SAP SE (NYSE: SAP).


Her career has included work with start-ups as well as industry leaders including SAP, Concur, AIG, and Reuters.


Callahan also serves on the board of Midwest Holding, a life and annuities company, where she chairs the Nominating and Governance Committee.


At SAP, Callahan leads global programs focused on ensuring customers receive maximum value from their integrated portfolio of SAP solutions.


Her prior executive roles for SAP included Global vice president of strategy for Customer Success Services, and she played a key role in integration efforts following the $8.3 billion acquisition by SAP of Concur Technologies.


While at Concur, Callahan was engaged in oversight of platform and web services, product development, and mobile strategy.


During her eight-year tenure at AIG, she advanced through vice president roles including P&L oversight and senior underwriting of cyber security, identity theft, media, E&O, and D&O liability insurance.


Callahan is a graduate of University of Virginia, where she obtained a bachelor’s degree in Systems Engineering and then an MBA, Finance from the Darden School of Business.


Callahan is also NACD Directorship Certified and a Certified Information Privacy Professional.


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